The Big Orange Buffoon won a freak victory with the help of a little voter suppression, a little Russian assistance and a direct line to the ugliest part of the national id. We on the left have mourned, raged and railed. We’ve tried to assign blame, analyzed the campaigns and the electorate ad nauseum. We know that we are entering an unprecedented (unpresidented?) and uncertain time. Now we need to take stock of our risks and decide on a plan of action.
Trump’s victory threatens us in two ways:
(1) Race-baiting authoritarianism. It’s no accident that American neo-Nazis and the KKK are celebrating Trump’s narrow victory and the direction he seems to be taking his administration. None of us should be surprised. Trump told us who he was over and over during the campaign, and the folks he’s choosing to run his administration confirm our worst suspicions. As Digby puts it, “this is the most powerful nation on earth and a cretinous, authoritarian demagogue who has surrounded himself with paranoid lunatics is going to be running it.” Rights and liberties we have always taken for granted are now potentially at risk.
(2) Destructive social policy. The conjunction of Trump and radical Republican control at both federal and state levels, pose, as Ross Barkan argues in the Guardian, a more conventional, but just as chilling threat:
…unvarnished, uncompromising conservatives control the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and nearly two-thirds of governorships. Even when Bush presided over a Republican-controlled Congress in 2001, many moderates without a reflexively nihilistic view of government could be found in the GOP. No longer.
In 2017, Trump will be in a position to rubber-stamp a Republican agenda that threatens to eviscerate the remnants of the New Deal consensus. If he erratically swerves left, Mike Pence and other purebreds surrounding him will keep him mostly in line.
Barkan is undoubtedly correct that the social progress that has been made over the past 100 years is at risk. I believe that Barkan is also correct when he posits that if we want to survive the Trump years we can’t be too nice about it:
… liberal politicians and activists should be prepared to obstruct Trump every chance they get once he is in office. That is, they should do the same thing the GOP did to Barack Obama. As a unified oppositional force, they torpedoed much of his agenda and grew their party to the point of where they are today: a transformational power prepared to wrench America in an utterly new direction.
Democrats must force Trump to own his failures when they come and hold him to account when his lofty promises to uplift the white working class inevitability aren’t fulfilled. In turn, they must offer a vision of their own, and convince inevitably disaffected Trump supporters that the Democratic Party, often just a home to mealy-mouthed centrism, has a place for them. Locally, anyone committed to resisting Trump must organize. Democratic states and cities will be bulwarks against the worst incursions of a Trump presidency.
However, it’s one thing to say that we “must” do something and quite another to actually get it done, especially for those of us in red states, represented by frothing-at-the-mouth wingers, or those of us who have to contend with centrist Democrats who are either too comfortable with the status quo to risk disruption, or too afraid of being bitten by the mad-dogs of the right to do anything that might prompt criticism. Missourians have already heard from some of our Democratic representatives that they want to be good little boys and girls, give Daddy Trump the benefit of the doubt, play bipartisan ball, and never, ever, acknowledge the fact that sometimes the greater good demands that one play political hardball instead.
Progressives will and should physically protest – going to the Womans March on the 21st, anyone? – and, if there are enough of us on the streets and we are noisy enough, that type of resistance can be valuable. It can help keep attention focused on how unacceptable the Looter-in-chief and his henchmen really are. It can even help thwart bad policy. In Poland, for instance, street protests managed to derail legislation that would have almost entirely banned abortion. But the effect of that victory is likely be short-lived as Poles enter what liberals there are calling a “neo-Dark Age” under rightwing “populist” leadership similar to what Trump promises to offer. Taking to the streets isn’t enough.
We need a recipe – something to tell us how to cook up a unified, effective, nonviolent resistance movement. And – you know how the scriptures tells us to ask and we shall receive – we’ve already got one recipe on offer. I am referring specifically to a document that has recently gone viral – you may already have encountered it – Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.
Prepared by former progressive congressional staffers, who, having experienced the turmoil of the Tea Party years, analyze undeniably effective Tea Party strategies in order “to provide practical understanding of how your Members of Congress (MoCs) think, and how you can demonstrate to them the depth and power of the opposition to Donald Trump and Republican congressional overreach.” Lest you are shocked by the idea of the Tea Party as a model, the authors add that:
We believe that protecting our values and neighbors will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda – but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Barack Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.
To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.
There are essentially five core beliefs that either explicitly or implicitly inform the prescriptions offered in the Practical Guide.
(1) While a proactive, positive agenda is great, our current circumstances demand that we focus on playing defense against Trump and the GOP.
(2) The opposition to Trump, those of us on the left, progressives, liberals or what have you, need to put our differences – and, in the wake of the election, our grievances against each other – aside in order to form effective defense teams.
(3) The best defensive tools we have are our congressmen and women. Each of us has two senators and one congressional representative. We must learn how to lobby them effectively – just as the Tea Party did – no matter what their party. I watched the Tea Party move my Democratic Senator over the center line rightward. That type of pressure can work both ways.
(4) Single individuals have no clout by themselves. We do not need large numbers, though, to be effective, just large enough, disciplined and organized enough to keep the messages coming hard and fast.
(5) Prioritized messages have to be simple and direct. The Tea Party seized upon Obamacare and used it dishonestly as a fulcrum through which energy could be harnessed in a rightward direction. The bright side of all this is that progressives don’t have to be dishonest – just ruthlessly focused.
Trump’s been busy assembling his wrecking crew, the GOP congress has already started preparing legislation to destroy Medicare, Social Security, and, if they can agree on a strategy, Obamacare. So far, elected Democrats are, apart from a little rumbling here and there, sitting on their hands when it comes to preparing a united opposition. Last week
As Monday’s Electoral College vote approaches, Democrats should be fighting tooth and nail. Instead, we are once again left with incontrovertible proof that win or lose, Republicans behave as if they won while Democrats behave as if they lost. What this portends for the next four years is truly terrifying.
The Electoral College vote came and went. Elected Democrats hemmed and hawed and looked away. This state of affairs has to change. The Practical Guide suggests a way to get things going. I encourage everyone who hasn’t already done so to read it and discuss it with like-minded individuals. Then get to work.